Saturday, October 11, 2014

Irish Poet Kevin Higgins on Joe Higgins' impending retirement

"The Militant Tendency was, during the 1980s, the largest Trotskyist organisation in Britain and Ireland. It was feared by the establishment.  It led Labour Youth, the youth section of the Irish Labour Party; had the leadership of Liverpool City Council during the council’s struggle against the Thatcher government; and led the successful campaign against the poll tax, video footage of which is always shown during every television documentary about Margaret Thatcher’s downfall. These days it is called The Socialist Party and has many thousands of ex-members, quite a few of whom were treated shockingly by the Party’s entirely undemocratic internal apparatus. These ex-members include founding member of its Irish organisation, John Throne; TDs Joan Collins and Clare Daly; former leading member Dermot Connolly; and the author of this poem, Kevin Higgins. Kevin wrote this poem on the announcement of the impending retirement at the next General Election of Joe Higgins from the Dáil. Joe has a reputation for speaking up for people’s rights. One group on whose behalf Joe has never spoken up is the many ex-members of his own organisation whose reputations the Party has tried to destroy.

For more see here
and here"

Irish Parliament’s Last Remaining Holy Man
Speaks On His Retirement

Tonight, I remember not the few
who stuck with me through
thin and thinner, but the many who,
long term, made stone mattresses
for their own backs by abandoning
me. Those politically
disembowelled on the quiet at meetings
I know nothing about, who left us
no alternative but to mutter

behind hands
about funds misappropriated; girls taken
advantage of on sofas
that weren’t fit for purpose; or
drainpipe trousers worn
without due care and attention
            on marches for
(or against) unemployment, war
            and death.

I was too busy doing what
The Congregation for the Doctrine
of the Faith told me
to know anything about anything
bad. To advance in this Party
all you needed do was be
reliable as old wardrobes,
or ready, when the moment came,
to do the thing everyone else wanted done
            but weren’t prepared to ruin
their fingernails doing themselves.

            To lend a dank hand
deleting the necessary names.  
Their eyes filling with nostalgia
as the breadknife goes in,
and their giblets spill,
like the worst serving of meatballs
ever to fall on a plate
this side of Mulhuddart.

Because of their vast
self-indulgence, I’ll spend
my remaining days
practicing self-denial on a rock
off the Atlantic coast,
crying into the turf smoke
at all those who left me.


Kevin Higgins was born in London in 1967 to Irish parents. He grew up in Galway, Ireland but lived in London in the late 80s/early nineties when he was active in the Anti-Poll Tax movement and chairman of Enfield Against The Poll Tax. He was expelled from the Labour Party in 1991 for his anti-poll tax activities and membership of Militant. He is now co-organiser of Over The Edge literary events in Galway, Ireland.  He facilitates poetry workshops at Galway Arts Centre; teaches creative writing at Galway Technical Institute and on the Brothers of Charity Away With Words programme. He is also Writer-in-Residence at Merlin Park Hospital and the poetry critic of the Galway Advertiser. 

He has published four collections of poems:  Kevin’s most recent collection of poetry, The Ghost In The Lobby, was launched at this year’s Cúirt Festival by Mick Wallace TD. His poems also feature in the anthology Identity Parade – New British and Irish Poets (Bloodaxe, 2010) and in the anthology The Hundred Years’ War: modern war poems (Ed Neil Astley, Bloodaxe May 2014).  His poetry was recently the subject of a paper titled ‘The Case of Kevin Higgins: Or The Present State of Irish Poetic Satire’ given by David Wheatley at a symposium on satire at the University of Aberdeen; David Wheatley’s paper can be read in full here . Mentioning The War, a collection of his essays and reviews, was published by Salmon in April, 2012.  Kevin’s blog is . and has been described by Dave Lordan as “one of the funniest around” who has also called Kevin “Ireland’s sharpest satirist.”

Praise for Kevin Higgins’s poetry:
“His contribution to the development of Irish satire is indisputable…Higgins’ poems embody all of the cunning and deviousness of language as it has been manipulated by his many targets... it is clear that Kevin Higgins’ voice and the force of his poetic project are gaining in confidence and authority with each new collection.” Philip Coleman
“It is a profound compliment to the quality of Kevin’s writing that you can disagree with the content and yet find yourself still reading on and appreciating the style. You’d have to say that he is one of the lead poets of his generation in Ireland at this stage.” Clare Daly T.D.
“Comedy is part of his poetics, and what I especially like in his work is its swiftness of wit, its tone of buoyant contrarianism and jubilant disappointment”, Eamonn Grennan, The Irish Times
 “good satirical savagery”. The Cambridge Introduction to Modern Irish Poetry, 1800-2000

Fluent and often as laugh-out-loud funny as Paul Howard's Ross O'Carroll-Kelly.” John McAuliffe, reviewing The Ghost in The Lobby, Irish Times August 2014

1 comment:

Sean said...

Thank you Kevin for your poetry. Joe Higgins is a socialist and stands up for the working class and for that he deserves credit. I left Ireland to build the CWI, the international organization of which the Irish Militant and now Socialist Party is part in the early 1980's. At that time I was on the Administrative Council of the Labor Party. I proposed that Joe Higgins take my place. He did so and from this position his career in left wing Irish politics took off. The CWI, including myself, was making major political mistakes at this time. We ruled out capitalism going back to the Stalinist world and we did not foresee the spurts of capitalist growth. The majority of the leadership of the CWI refused to accept that it had made these mistakes. It wanted to appear as the all knowing always right leadership. I refused to go along with this. I wanted to discuss these major mistakes we, including myself, had all made. I took the lead in forming a faction to fight for my ideas, including to fight to admit these mistakes and consider was there a mistake in our method which led to these mistakes. This was my democratic right. But when i did so I faced a vicious onslaught of lies, slanders, and eventually expulsion from the CWI. I was also denied my right to appeal against my expulsion. Joe Higgins took part in all these lies, slanders, and this injustice. I tried to attend many conferences of the CWI and the Irish section of the CWI to appeal against my expulsion. I was not allowed in. Joe Higgins never spoke up for my right to be allowed in. I will never forget standing outside a conference of the Irish section in the North Star hotel in Dublin and being refused to entrance. There and then I vowed two things. I vowed I would never build a section with that sort of corrupt internal life again and I concluded that the method of organizing know as democratic centralism was fundamentally flawed. I now organize on the basis of democratic collectivism. But back to Joe Higgins. I asked him to meet. We did so in Buswells Hotel. I said Joe, I am not asking you to support my political positions, i am asking you to support my democratic right to appeal against my expulsion. Joe sat there clutching some documents to his chest. I could see him weighing up his future in front of him. If he supported my right to appeal he would be driven out of the CWI as i was driven out. His positions in the workers' movement would be undermined by his own organization. He was faced with taking a principled position or an unprincipled position. He chose the unprincipled position. He said: " I will not support your right to appeal. You got yourself into this mess yourself you can get out of it yourself." He then got up and still clutching his documents ran from the hotel. It seemed that as long as he clutched these documents of the CWI to his chest he would in some way be protected from his own unprincipled behavior. I will never forget the sight of him running from the hotel. He chose opportunism and injustice over principle. I recently discussed with another former full timer of the CWI in Ireland who like myself was driven out of that organization and that Comrade had this to say. "When it comes to internal life in the CWI Joe Higgins always looks after number one." This is correct, when it comes to internal struggle in the CWI Joe looks "after number one," chooses opportunism over principle. When it comes to internal life in the CWI Joe does not stand up for others who are badly treated, he looks after number one. Joe has a stain on his revolutionary record. When it comes to internal struggles in the CWI he supports whatever helps his career in that organization, that is in terms of internal revolutionary politics he is an opportunist. He supports number one. I hope Joe has the character to change his ways and take the lead in the fight against the unprincipled, undemocratic corrupt internal life of the SP and the CWI. John Throne.